The Ledes

Monday, December 22, 2014.

Weather Channel: "... we're monitoring not one, but two storms that may make a mess of your holiday travel plans, much as Winter Storm Cato did right before Thanksgiving. Already, aviation forecasters at the National Weather Service say that a 'high impact event' is likely for airports in the New York City area on Wednesday due to the combination of heavy rain and gusty winds."

BBC News: "The Spanish king's sister, Princess Cristina, is to face a tax fraud trial over alleged links to her husband's business dealings."

The Wires

Public Service Announcement

Surprise! December 19: Dr. Oz is a quack.

Washington Post, November 21: Learn how to use your thermostat & save $$$.

New York Times, November 17: "For the first time since statins have been regularly used, a large study has found that another type of cholesterol-lowering drug can protect people from heart attacks and strokes."

White House Live Video
December 19

1:30 pm ET: President Obama holds a press briefing

If you don't see the livefeed here, go to WhiteHouse.gov/live.

***********************************************

ABC News: "After more than 20 years together, music icon Elton John and his partner David Furnish are married!... A law passed earlier this year in England allow[s] same-sex marriage...."

A former resident of Somerville, Massachusetts, calls into outgoing Gov. Deval Patrick's last regular monthly radio call-in show:

Sixteen times Stephen Colbert broke character on his show. With videos. ...

... Winger John Hinderaker of Powerline has never seen Colbert's show, but he's pretty sure it was an hour-long ad for the Democratic party. "I am not in favor of restricting anyone’s right to free speech, but if federal law is going to bar a businessman from contributing enough to buy more than a minimal amount of television time on behalf of his party or his candidates, why shouldn’t Stephen Colbert and Comedy Central be prohibited from airing millions of dollars worth of pro-Democratic Party propaganda?" CW: Evidently, Hinderaker has not heard of Fox "News."

Los Angeles Times: "A hashtag about asking police officers questions for a CNN panel turned extremely negative almost as soon as it was posted Tuesday. #AskACop was meant to be used by viewers who wanted to tweet questions to officers for the town hall segment "Cops Under Fire,” hosted by Don Lemon. There was an overwhelming response -- most of which were criticisms toward police." CW: Apparently CNN had no idea people were pissed at the police.

Bill Carter of the New York Times: "For nine years, Stephen Colbert has relentlessly maintained his pompous, deeply ridiculous but consistently appealing conservative blowhard character on his late-night show, 'The Colbert Report' — so much so that when he puts the character to rest for good on Thursday night, he may have to resort to comicide. The Grim Reaper is his last guest."

New York Times: "Life on Mars? Today? The notion may not be so far-fetched after all. A year after reporting that NASA’s Curiosity rover had found no evidence of methane gas on Mars, all but dashing hopes that organisms might be living there now, scientists reversed themselves on Tuesday. Curiosity has now recorded a burst of methane that lasted at least two months. For now, scientists have just two possible explanations for the methane. One is that it is the waste product of certain living microbes.... It could have been created by a geological process known as serpentinization, which requires both heat and liquid water. Or it could be a product of life in the form of microbes known as methanogens, which release methane as a waste product.... The scientists also reported that for the first time, they had confirmed the presence of carbon-based organic molecules in a rock sample. The so-called organics are not direct signs of life, past or present, but they lend weight to the possibility that Mars had the ingredients required for life, and may even still have them."

"Oh, God, It's Mom." Kelly Faircloth of Jezebel: "Oh my Lord, shut it down, here is the greatest moment in the history of C-SPAN: A (very Southern) mama called into one of their shows to yell at the guests. Not because she disagrees, but because the guests are brothers and both her sons and she is sick and tired of their shit":


Escape from Alcatraz. Live Science: "... on the night of June 11, 1962, three inmates left Alcatraz in one of the most mysterious prison breaks in American history. John Anglin, his brother Clarence Anglin and Frank Morris tucked dummy heads into their bed sheets and snuck into an unused utility corridor through holes they had crudely drilled through their cells. Then, from the prison roof, they shimmied down the bakery smoke stack and climbed over the fence. From the northeast shore of the island, they floated away from the prison on a small raft made from more than 50 stolen raincoats that were inflated with a musical instrument that was converted into a pump. Even the FBI still calls the plan 'ingenious' on its website. After a 17-year investigation, federal authorities concluded that the men most likely drowned during the escape...."

... BUT ...

... The linked story above has a better video, but it's not embeddable.

Rolling Stone: "David Letterman will retire from late-night television on Wednesday, May 20th. The Late Show host's production company Worldwide Pants announced the news, according to Deadline, with CBS Corp. President and CEO Leslie Moonves praising Letterman’s 'remarkable legacy of achievement and creative brilliance [which] will never be forgotten.'"

Washington Post: "New information from NASA's Curiosity Rover suggests that Mars may once have had large, long-lasting lakes above ground. That would challenge the more popular theory that water on the planet was only underground, or only appeared in a few areas for a short amount of time. The key to this latest theory is Mount Sharp, which stands 3 miles tall and sits in the red planet's Gale Crater. But Mount Sharp is a curious formation: The layered mountain is made of different kinds of sediment. Some layers were probably deposited by a surrounding lake bed, and other seem more likely to be the result of river or wind deposits." CW: Yeah, there was probably once a really well-developed life on Mars with flora & fauna & -- eventually -- little green men who didn't believe in climate change.

New York Times: "After weeks of planning, New York City welcomed the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge on Sunday for a three-day visit, greeting Prince William and his wife, Catherine, with the blend of enthusiasm, sarcasm and bemusing antagonism that tends to tail the urban celebrity tourist."

The Wrap: "Longtime CNN political anchor Candy Crowley is leaving the network."

December 6: Max Fisher of Vox: So two white guys -- guys who will have no trouble finding other jobs -- get fired, & half the New Republic staff walks out in protest. Where was the outrage when Marty Peretz was editor & writing racist screeds? The contrasting reactions speak "to a larger problem of how we think about racism in American society and particularly in the elite media institutions that have badly lagged in employing people of color." ...

... Scott Lemieux in LG&M: "For all its sins [of the past], I don’t see how turning the magazine into another traffic-chaser under the aegis of a CEO who speaks Meaningless Buzzword and apparently lacks the attention span to read more than 500 words at a time is a good thing." ...

... Charles Pierce: "... contra Chait, and even though the magazine unquestionably has regained a lot of its lost quality, especially in its actual reporting, I think the notion that The New Republic is 'an essential foundation of American progressive thought' is a ship that sailed a long time ago." ...

... Zandar in Balloon Juice: " The number of damns I give about TNR as a going concern at this point equals approximately the number of black voices writing for the magazine, which is to say zero, but YMMV."

... December 4 & 5: Dylan Byers of Politico: "Franklin Foer and Leon Wieseltier, the top two editors at The New Republic, quit on Thursday amid a shakeup that will relocate the Washington-based magazine to New York City, sources there told Politico on Thursday. Gabriel Snyder, a Bloomberg Media editor who previously served at The Atlantic Wire, has been tapped to replace Foer as editor. The magazine will also reduce its print schedule to 10 issues a year, down from 20." ...

     ... New York Times Update: "More than two dozen members of the staff of The New Republic, including several contributing editors, resigned on Friday morning, angered by an abrupt change of editors and what they saw as a series of management missteps. The resignations include the senior editors Alec MacGillis, Julia Ioffe and Isaac Chotiner, and the contributing editors Sean Wilentz and William Deresiewicz, according to several staff members who are leaving. A list compiling the names of those resigning was obtained by The New York Times." ...

     ... AND more from Jessica Roy of New York. ...

... Jonathan Chait: The New Republic has lost its way. ...

... Ezra Klein: "It's a bit early, I think, to write The New Republic's eulogy. Gabriel Snyder, the magazine's new editor, is a smart and web-savvy guy." ...

... Leah Finnegan of Gawker: "Indeed, an entire magazine is now doomed to fail because a white man has been fired and — gasp — an internet-savvy white man has been brought in to replace him! In TNR's 100-year history, I never would have imagined such a triage of injustice. It's clear that the new leadership of the magazine—with all their greasy Facebook money—is dead set on ruining a (historically racist) publication no one ever read in the first place, and was on the slow road to Irrelevance City. What will Chris Hughes do next? Perhaps the publication might even become interesting. Scream!"

Charles Pierce is completely taken with Ed Snowden. He's brave, credible & intelligent, blah-blah, & the film "Citizenfour" is bee-youtiful. For an antidote to starry-eyed Charles, see this review by Fred Kaplan of Slate.

This is quite cool:

 

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Tuesday
Aug072012

The Commentariat -- August 8, 2012

Yesterday, President Obama outlined steps the federal government is taking to help farmers in drought-devasted areas:

Liz Goodwin of Yahoo! News: "As many as 1.76 million young illegal immigrants could qualify for temporary legal status under President Obama's deferred action program, says a new report from the Migration Policy Institute. That's more than double the Obama administration's initial estimate of 800,000 people who would benefit from the program. The new number reflects the Obama administration's updated guidelines released last Friday.... Initially, only young illegal immigrants under 30 who entered the country as children, graduated from high school and had no criminal record would make the cut. Now, young people who didn't graduate or receive their G.E.D. can still apply for the legal status as long as they re-enroll in high school by the time they apply."

Danielle Douglas & Joby Warrick of the Washington Post: "Regulators are catching flak for not acting sooner to stop banks that helped Iran flout U.S. sanctions. This week, the state of New York said London-based Standard Chartered Bank concealed $250 billion in Iranian transactions, violations that persisted for nearly a decade. A number of international banks, including Lloyds, Barclays and Credit Suisse engaged in similar behaviors, but it took years before regulators put their foot down. State and federal agencies routinely audit banks to ensure compliance with anti-money-laundering rules, but institutions continue to skirt the law. Critics say enforcement actions have fallen short of serving as a deterrent, especially since the punishments resulted in fines but no jail time." CW warning: this article is written in Classic Post He Said/He Said Script, but you might learn something anyway. ...

... Jessica Silver-Greenberg & Ben Protess of the New York Times: "Top executives at Standard Chartered said they were surprised when New York's banking regulator accused them on Monday of scheming with the Iranian government to launder billions of dollars to potentially support terrorist activities.... The regulatory order also stunned other authorities investigating the bank, namely officials at the Federal Reserve and the Justice Department...."

David Dayen of Firedoglake: "The Supreme Court justices have jurisdiction over various regions of the country when it comes to injunctions, particularly when it comes to stays of execution. In the case of Marvin Wilson, the mentally retarded man with an IQ of 61 and an intelligence level of a 6 year-old, set to die today* in Texas in conjunction with a murder conviction, that appeal had to go through none other than Justice Antonin Scalia. Justice Scalia wrote a dissent in the case of Atkins v. Virginia, which established the ban on executing the mentally retarded (Texas, like other states, got to set their own standards for what constitutes 'retarded,' and as such plowed ahead with the execution of Wilson today).... And so it should come as no surprise that [Scalia]" summarily denied the application for a stay of execution. CW: See also yesterday's News Ledes. ...

... Digby: "Why in the hell did they [the Supremes] leave it up to a bunch of blood thirsty yahoos to decide what "retarded" is? This is yet another triumph of our corrupt and immoral 'states' rights' doctrine for which the suppression of human rights and basic decency has been it's most lasting legacy."

Andrew Rosenthal writes an excellent post comparing the "paranoid ranting" of the NRA's Wayne LaPierre --

... LaPierre, said in his four-page plea for cash that President Obama's re-election would result in the 'confiscation' of weapons and a possible ban on semi-automatic weapons. 'The future of your Second Amendment rights will be at stake,' the letter said. 'And nothing less than the future of our country and our freedom will be at stake.' --

       -- to what Obama has actually done about gun control -- "nothing" is a generous reading.

Presidential Race

Evan McMorris-Santoro: "As Republicans continue trying to cash in on the out-of-context 'you didn't build that' attack on President Obama, the Obama campaign is assembling an army of small business owners who say that they did engineer their own success -- thanks to the opportunities afforded them by generations of American taxpayers."

Maureen Dowd: Barack Obama doesn't send thank-you notes.

Economist Brad DeLong provides a detailed takedown of the attempt by Romney's economic advisors to spin his economic plan.

The Priorities USA ad featuring steelworker Joe Soptic -- which I embedded in yesterday's Commentariat -- is somewhat fact-challenged. Although Soptic leaves the impression that his wife died "a short time" after he lost his job & health insurance because of a Bain takeover, that's not the case. Glenn Kessler of the Washington Post has the timeline & other details. Kessler doesn't assign any Pinocchios. But Soptic's Shakespearean compression is nothing like this --

Under Obama's plan (for welfare), you wouldn't have to work and wouldn't have to train for a job. They just send you your welfare check. -- Mitt Romney on Monday, August 6th, 2012 in a campaign ad

PolitiFact: "That's a drastic distortion of the planned [Obama administration] changes.... By granting waivers to states, the Obama administration is seeking to make welfare-to-work efforts more successful, not end them.... In fact..., the new policy is 'designed to improve employment outcomes for needy families.' The ad's claim is not accurate, and it inflames old resentments about able-bodied adults sitting around collecting public assistance."

Oliver Knox of Yahoo! News: "The White House denounced Mitt Romney's 'blatantly dishonest' charge that President Barack Obama is looking to 'gut welfare reform' enacted under Bill Clinton by erasing a requirement that recipients actively seek work. 'This advertisement is categorically false, and it is blatantly dishonest,' press secretary Jay Carney told reporters at his daily briefing."

AP: "Former President Bill Clinton is taking exception to a campaign ad by Mitt Romney that asserts that the Obama administration is weakening the work requirements for welfare. In a statement Tuesday night, Clinton called the Republican's assertion 'not true' and the ad misleading."

Greg Sargent: "... Mitt Romney has again put GOP governors in a delicate position, in which they are caught between the need to defend their own policies and the need to avoid saying anything that detracts from Romney's campaign message." The Repubican governors of Utah & Nevada -- who led the group of governors asking the Obama administration for flexibiity -- refused to tell reporters whether or not they agreed with Romney's ad. ...

... Greg Sargent: "... this ad is tantamount to claiming that Republican governors want to gut welfare reform and ensure that the government just sends people a 'welfare check.' ... For an election that's supposed to be all about the economy, the Romney campaign is suddenly leaning very hard on a more traditional politics of resentment right out of an older GOP playbook."

This was a lie too far for Steve Benen, who has been chronicling "Mitt's Mendacity" for 28 weeks: "... this is as dishonest an ad as you'll ever see -- in 2012 or in any other campaign cycle.... Romney's lying. He's not spinning the truth to his advantage; he's not hiding in a gray area between fact and fiction; he's just lying. The law hasn't been 'gutted'; the work requirement hasn't been 'dropped.' ... All Obama did is agree to Republican governors' request for flexibility.... What does it say about Romney's strength as a candidate that he has to make up garbage and hope voters don't know the difference? ... The language in the ad harkens back to the kind of ugly and racially divisive rhetoric we heard from GOP candidates for far too long." ...

... Steve Benen: "The president is giving states the option of experimenting with new welfare-to-work programs -- an option Romney used to support -- but work requirements remain intact.... Republican governors were the ones who asked for the flexibility to experiment, and Obama agreed. But if Romney and the GOP have decided to go nuclear on this..., the president can simply reverse course -- Republicans are against state flexibility and experimentation? Fine, no more state flexibility and experimentation."

"A Very Nasty Piece of Work." Ed Kilgore: "It's the old welfare-queen meme, which Republicans have already been regularly reviving in their attacks on the Affordable Care Act, on Medicaid, on food stamps, and in their much broader and horrifyingly invidious claims that poor and minority people deliberately taking out mortgages they knew they couldn't afford caused the whole housing market collapse and the financial crisis that followed."

Dana Milbank on the Italian Job: "Romney's larger problem with Bain and his personal income taxes: The question is not whether he did well, or whether he did it legally, but whether he did it with any sense of ethics.... Of ... concern is that, as president, Romney would further expand the advantages of fellow rich people. Romney encouraged that worry on Tuesday, when he announced at a campaign stop that he would be tough on welfare -- 'we will end the culture of dependency and restore a culture of good hard work' -- and then went to a pair of fundraisers where high-rolling donors paid as much as $75,000 for access to him.

Romney Really Hates to Pay Taxes. Robin Abcarian of the Los Angeles Times: "After paying cash for the Mediterranean-style house with 61 feet of beach frontage, [the Romneys] asked San Diego County for dramatic property tax relief [making] ... a months-long effort to reduce their annual property tax bill.... Initially, the Romneys asked that their 2009 assessment, $12.24 million, be reduced to $6.8 million, maintaining that their home had lost about 45% of its value in the first seven months they owned it. Thirteen months later, after hiring an attorney..., the Romneys filed an amended appeal, contending the home had suffered a less-dramatic fall of 27.3%, to $8.9 million. They also filed an appeal for the 2010 tax year, claiming the house had dropped further, to $7.5 million, 38.7% less than the home's assessed value. As a result, the Romneys have saved about $109,000 in property taxes over four years."

John Cassidy of the New Yorker: "... the Mittster is also going to have to ingratiate himself with the regular folk, something he's never been particularly adept at.... Romney is in grave danger of joining the list of money-rich candidates who ended up as roadkill."

Congressional Races

The Neophyte Candidate. Noah Bierman of the Boston Globe: "Elizabeth Warren demanded Monday that Senator Scott Brown release more of his tax returns. The only problem was that Brown, her Republican rival, had already released six years of tax returns while Warren has refused to release more than four years of her filings. Asked to reconcile that apparent conflict, Warren backed off her demand, saying today that six years was enough. She did not, however, offer to release any more of her IRS filings." CW: I hope some of you of the "Warren for President" persuasion are beginning to understand why that was a bad idea.

God Is a Conservative Republican (And She Loves Todd Akin the Most). Tim O'Neil of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. "U.S. Rep. Todd Akin of Wildwood, [Missouri,] won the battle of conservatives for the Republican nomination to the U.S. Senate with a strong lead that held through the evening in statewide returns.... 'The first thing I would like to do is give thanks to God, our creator,' Akin said. 'Your prayers were answered with victory.'"

Right Wing World *

"America --' Watering Down' Voting Rights since 1776." Alec McGillis of The New Republic: RNC Chair "Reince Priebus sent out this tweet: 'We need to call out Obama for trying to water down the voting privileges of our military men and women in Ohio.' So, expanding voting rights generally -- which, let's face it, tends to favor Democrats -- 'waters down' the votes of a Republican-leaning constituency like the military? ... This seems like a case of accidental and illuminating candor, right up there with the Pennsylvania House majority leader who declared recently that his state's new Voter ID law would win the state for Mitt Romney.... Sort of like expanding the franchise to women 'watered down' the voting rights of men...."

* Where only Republicans have the franchise.

News Ledes

Washington Post: "In 118 years of U.S. records, July 2012 stands as king, hotter than any month previously observed. NOAA reports today that the average temperature across the continental U.S. was 3.3 degrees Fahrenheit warmer than the 20th century average, 0.2 degrees hotter than the previous record set in July, 1936."

New York Times: "Wade M. Page, the man who the police say shot and killed six people at a Sikh temple in Wisconsin this week, died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound, officials said on Wednesday. The authorities had reported earlier that he was fatally shot by a police officer. Mr. Page, 40, shot himself in the head after being struck by a bullet fired by an officer from the Oak Creek Police Department, said Teresa L. Carlson, a special agent with the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The bullet fired by the officer hit Mr. Page in the stomach, Ms. Carlson said."

Al Jazeera: "The Syrian army has launched a ground assault on the northern city of Aleppo, sparking fierce clashes with opposition fighters in the frontline district of Salaheddine."

AP: "The international security contractor formerly known as Blackwater has agreed to pay a $7.5 million fine to settle federal criminal charges related to arms smuggling and other crimes.... The list of violations includes possessing automatic weapons in the United States without registration, lying to federal firearms regulators about weapons provided to the king of Jordan, passing secret plans for armored personnel carriers to Sweden and Denmark without U.S. government approval and illegally shipping body armor overseas.... In a statement issued immediately after the settlement was made public, however, Academi officials denied they admitted any guilt.... A clause in Academi's settlement with prosecutors bars the company from making any public statements 'contradicting any aspect' of the agreement. Any such statement could allow the government to nullify the settlement...." CW: and nobody goes to jail.

The Tennessean: "After two years of struggle, Murfreesboro Muslims will finally be able to hold Friday prayers in their new mosque.... County officials granted the mosque a temporary conditional occupancy permit on Tuesday after the building passed a state fire marshal's inspection. Getting the permit brought an end to two years of controversy over the mosque, which included street protests, a fire, a bomb threat and three lawsuits. Reporters from around the world covered the story...."

ABC News: "Police say they have arrested [Misty Cook,] the former girlfriend of the gunman who allegedly shot and killed six people in a Sikh temple, after authorities found a gun in the home they once shared.... A federal law enforcement official told ABC News that Cook was taken into custody on the grounds that she is prohibited from having a gun as a convicted felon. Cook was charged in 2002 for fleeing and eluding a traffic officer. There's no indication she was involved with the attack."

Monday
Aug062012

I Know Mitt Cheated on His Taxes

My Two Cents.

The general assumption is that Mitt did nothing illegal in his tax filings, but used every legal trick in the IRS code to limit his liability. One basis for that assumption is that Mitt has been running for president since 1994 so he wouldn't be so stupid as to illegally evade taxes. Another basis is that John McCain claims his staff reviewed 23 years of Mitt's returns and found "There's nothing in Romney's tax returns that would disqualify him as a candidate, and McCain will 'personally vouch' for that."

(1) Ask Tim TurboTax Geithner & a couple of Bill Clinton's attorney general nominees about that. It is not that hard to cheat on your taxes & get it past the IRS. Thousands -- probably tens of thousands -- of ordinary people do it every year without the IRS even noticing. Mitt admitted a few days ago that he'd "been audited a few times." But remember, even when the IRS did audit Mitt's returns, it would have been Mitt's $400/hour tax attorneys countering a couple of G-9s who don't get overtime. Not a fair fight. Besides, when the object is to exploit every loophole & tax haven ($100 million IRA???), there are bound to be dicey calls.

(2) John McCain considered Mitt as a running mate for about 15 minutes, the obligatory period required to garner a photo op & an endorsement from a former opponent. My own annual tax returns on a miniscule income -- compared to Mitt's -- are as thick as The Great Gatsby. Mitt's have to be of War & Peace proportions. Do you think McCain's staff really combed through War & Peace x 23 in 15 minutes? Remember, this was the same gang who vetted Sarah Palin.

Not only that, McCain's wording was pretty cagey. He said there was nothing in the returns that was "disqualifying." That isn't the same thing as saying there was nothing that was illegal. If you get audited & the IRS fines you -- assuming the IRS is right -- you've done something "illegal." Unless it was egregious, you'll just have to pay back taxes, interest & (maybe) a fine. That isn't disqualifying. Plenty of decent people have lost audits & been hit with penalties. I wouldn't vote against somebody just because she made a mistake on her taxes.

But now. Instead of McCain's feeble vetters, nominee Romney faces a couple of hundred expert green eye shades anxious to dig in for the sheer fun of it. They are bound to come up with something, from "innocent" mistakes (See TurboTax Tim) to possible prosecutable evasions (perhaps past the statute of limitations). With such complex returns, & with the paramount goal of reducing liability (rather than giving the government its due), it is a virtual certainty that "mistakes were made."

Here's something else. Mitt himself doesn't know WTF is in those returns. Yeah, he's a Harvard MBA, but there's a reason he didn't do his own returns (see TurboTax Tim). He doesn't know how. He doesn't have time to learn. He's running for president, for Pete's sake. Inevitably, interviewers would ask him about some of those "mistakes that were made." A man running for office almost wholly on the basis of his business acumen can't afford to admit, "I have no idea," much less, "I can't add & subtract. I pay somebody to do that." Voter interpretation (fair or not): "You think you can run the whole country & you can't even read your own tax returns?"

Mitt should have been satisfied to live out his days in luxury, basking in the friendship of NASCAR & pro football team owners, the horsey set & whoever, maybe riding his car elevator up & down for fun (it might rotate!). Instead, he thought because it was his turn to be president, he could bluff his way into the job without having to show his cards. Don't tell me Mormons don't gamble. Mitt has gambled and won plenty of times. It's how he became a multi-millionaire. But Harry Reid -- another Mormon gambler -- just called Mitt's Big Bluff. Whether or not Mitt folds or shows his cards, he's lost the game.

Monday
Aug062012

The Commentariat -- August 7, 2012

Today in Mass Murders News

I think all of us recognize that these kinds of terrible, tragic events are happening with too much regularity for us not to do some soul-searching and to examine additional ways that we can reduce violence. And as I've already said, I think there are a lot of elements involved in it, and what I want to do is to bring together law enforcement, community leaders, faith leaders, elected officials of every level to see how we can make continued progress. -- President Obama, on the shooting at the Sikh temple in Wisconsin (See video following today's Ledes) ...

... Charles Pierce on Ann Althouse's "confusion." Althouse is a conservative law professor at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, who is right good at defending the right. In a post yesterday, she "explained" why Wade Page would reasonably have known that Sikhs weren't Moooslums. Conservatives really don't want to own their own terrorist extremist white supremacist mass murderer. Mr. Pierce demurs. CW: Conservatives really don't want to own their own terrorist extremist white supremacist mass murderer, so they are working overtime to pretend Page's motives were in no way akin to the views of your ordinary real-American winger bigots. ...

Juan Cole: Wade Page "operated in an atmosphere of virulent hate speech against American Muslims [which] ... has plagued the United States in the past decade, pushed by unscrupulous bigots in public life and by entire media organizations such as Fox Cable News and other media properties of ... Rupert Murdoch. Among them is also Rush Limbaugh, who, incredibly, is still broadcast to US soldiers abroad. Among the hatemongers are Frank Gaffney, and his acolyte Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn), Rep. Peter King (R-NY)... John Bolton, and sometimes Rudi Giuliani, Mike Huckabee and others, most associated with the Republican Party. The push for hate speech against American Muslims is funded by a small group of billionaires.... Some ... are connected to the US arms industry.... Others are Israel-firster fanatics. Others are looking for a bogey man to scare Americans with...." Thanks to Kate M. for the link. ...

... Adam Weinstein of Mother Jones: "Using photos of Wade from his white-power band's Myspace page, it's possible to see what concerned police: Much of his body reads like a poster text for white nationalism. In particular, a tattoo on Page's left shoulder ... suggests he was a committed devotee of white-power ideology. The tattoo consists of a large '14' in Gothic lettering superimposed on a black cross in a circle. The cross, known elsewhere as 'Odin's Cross,' is 'one of the most popular symbols for neo-Nazis and white supremacists,' according to the Anti-Defamation League. It's also used as a logo by Stormfront.org, one of the world's most-visited racist web forums." ...

... Erica Goode & Serge Kovaleski of the New York Times: "To some who track the movements of white supremacist groups, the violence was not a total surprise. [Wade] Page, 40, had long been among the hundreds of names on the radar of organizations monitored by the Southern Poverty Law Center because of his ties to the white supremacist movement and his role as the leader of a white-power band called End Apathy.... Mark Potok, a senior fellow at the Southern Poverty Law Center, said Mr. Page had come to the center's attention a decade ago because of his affiliation with rock bands known for lyrics that push far past the boundaries of tolerance." ...

... Scott Bauer & Todd Richmond of the AP have more on Wade Page's history. ...

... Here's the Washington Post story by Michael Laris, et al.

... Greg McCune of Reuters: "The semiautomatic handgun used in the deadly attack on a Wisconsin Sikh temple is the same type used in other recent U.S. mass shootings, including one at a theater in Colorado, and the attack on a congresswoman in Arizona, gun experts said. Wisconsin shooter Wade Michael Page used a Springfield 9mm semiautomatic handgun to carry out the attack at a Sikh temple in Oak Creek, Wisconsin, officials said. As in several other recent mass shootings, the gun had been purchased legally, at a Milwaukee-area gun store called the Shooter Shop."

Mark Greenblatt, et al., of ABC News: "The psychiatrist who treated suspected movie-theater shooter James Holmes made contact with a University of Colorado police officer to express concerns about her patient's behavior several weeks before Holmes' alleged rampage, sources told ABC News."

Tim Gaynor of Reuters: Jared Loughner, "accused of killing six people and wounding 13 others, including then-U.S. Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, in a Tucson shooting rampage last year was expected to plead guilty on Tuesday if a judge finds him mentally competent...."

... AND reporters at Mother Jones have updated their interactive Mass Murder Map. The map includes "details on the shooters' identities, the types of weapons they used, and the number of victims they injured and killed." Thanks to contributor Lisa for the link.

* * *

Gary Gensler, Chair of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, in a New York Times op-ed: "The Barclays case demonstrates that Libor has become more vulnerable to misconduct. It's time for a new or revised benchmark -- an emperor clothed in actual, observable market transactions -- to restore the confidence of Americans that the rates at which they borrow and lend money are set honestly and transparently."

Surprise, Surprise! New York Times Editors: "Republican lawmakers demanded ... [spending] cuts last year as part of their brinkmanship over the debt ceiling, and business lobbies have generally supported slashing the deficit. But now that the cuts are imminent, corporate executives seem to have realized that the last thing the economy needs is a large budget cut across the board.... Now it is up to Democrats to force Republicans to rework the coming spending cuts and tax increases in a way that benefits most Americans and the broader economy."

Reed Abelson & Julie Creswell of the New York Times: "HCA, the largest for-profit hospital chain in the United States with 163 facilities, had uncovered evidence ... showing that some cardiologists at several of its hospitals in Florida were unable to justify many of the procedures they were performing.... Unnecessary -- even dangerous -- procedures were taking place at some HCA hospitals, driving up costs and increasing profits.... In some cases, the doctors made misleading statements in medical records that made it appear the procedures were necessary, according to internal reports.... Documents suggest that the problems at HCA went beyond a rogue doctor or two."

Presidential Race

Poker Face Edition. In today's installment, Harry Reid once again demonstrates how Mormons gamble.

This whole issue is not about me. This whole controversy would end very quickly if he would release his income tax returns like everybody else has done that's running for president. -- Harry Reid, yesterday

[Mitt Romney is] the most secretive candidate since Richard Nixon. It's clear Mitt Romney is hiding something, and the only way for him to clear this up is to be straight with the American people and release his tax returns. -- Adam Jettleson, Reid's spokesman

... "The 'Missing Evidence' Instruction": Joe Conason in the National Memo: "There is a legal doctrine that applies to Romney's current behavior, as Indiana attorney John Sullivan points out -- and it doesn't place the burden of proof on Reid:

At law, if a person in control of evidence refuses to produce the evidence, then the jury is instructed that there is a presumption that the evidence would be against the party failing to produce. It is called the 'Missing Evidence' instruction.

     "The missing evidence is in Romney's grasp, yet he insists that he will never produce it. Does anyone need instruction from a judge to make the correct inference?" ...

... OR, as Hunter of Daily Kos puts it, "Whatever's in Mitt Romney's old taxes, whether it be zero-tax years or Swiss tax amnesties or non-tithing or that he made several million dollars on a new product called Fetus Chow, it's apparently so bad that America wouldn't vote for the rich business guy if they saw it. At this point, that's damning enough." ...

... House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi connects Secret Mitt's secret tax returns to Secret Mitt's secret tax policy of raising taxes on the middle class while lowering taxes on millionaire & billionaires like Willard who already use extraordinary means to further reduce their tax rates -- to somewhere around nothing. ...

... Imani Gandy in Balloon Juice: "Politifact calls Harry Reid a liar; wishes there was a way to prove that Romney paid income tax." CW: as the cited title implies, a pretty funny post.

... David Dayen of Firedoglake: "If Republicans thought they could bully Harry Reid into backing down about his comments over Mitt Romney's taxes, they simply miscalculated, and all their outrage has done is keep a story front and center that they would rather push to the margins. ...

... CW: Outraged by unproved allegations made by a friend of Harry Reid's, John Sununu jumps in to make an unproved allegations about President Obama. Tom Ovadia of Politico: "John Sununu ... [called] Sen. Harry Reid ... a 'bumbling Senate leader' and alleg[ed] that President Barack Obama is 'behind this dishonesty and misrepresentation.'" With video. ...

... Amy Parnes of The Hill: "The White House on Monday distanced President Obama from Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's comments that GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney hasn’t paid taxes in a decade. White House press secretary Jay Carney said on Monday that Reid (D-Nev.) 'speaks for himself' and had spoken on the issue without any guidance from Team Obama."

Alexander Burns of Politico: "In a new ad from Romney and the Republican National Committee, the GOP candidate laments Obama's support for waiving welfare work requirements for states that want to implement different policies." CW: oh, look, in an update Burns (no relation) writes, "... Romney supported certain welfare waivers for states, when he was governor of Massachusetts." Includes attack ad. Read the whole post, especially the update.

It's like Robin Hood in reverse -- it's Romney Hood. -- President Obama on Mitt Romney's tax plan

President Obama’s lawsuit claims it is unconstitutional for Ohio to allow servicemen and women extended early voting privileges during the state's early voting period. -- Mitt Romney

PolitiFact: "It is simply dishonest for Romney and his backers to claim that Obama's effort to extend early voting privileges to everyone in Ohio constitutes an attack on military voters' ability to cast ballots on the weekend before elections."

Jonathan Chait of New York: "If Romney is conceding that voting is a fundamental right rather than a privilege -- not all Republicans concede this anymore -- and, more importantly, that practical impediments can interfere with that right, then what justification do they have for their wide-ranging campaign to deny the same convenience to other Americans?"

David Firestone of the New York Times on Mitt Romney's "extraordinary lie" about early voting in Ohio.

Joe Vardon of the Columbus Dispatch: "The Romney campaign and veterans groups opposed to a lawsuit in Ohio filed by President Barack Obama's campaign continue to portray the suit as an objection to certain voting privileges for military voters. But two constitutional-law professors from different battleground states -- Ohio and Florida -- strongly disagree with the Romney campaign, and some other veterans groups say that Romney is supporting denial of voting access to hundreds of thousands of Ohio military veterans by opposing Obama's lawsuit." CW: though this appears to be a straight he-said/he-said news story, it doesn't make the Romney case look good. The headline is "Experts: Romney's wrong on Ohio early-voting suit." We like to see stories like this hit the local papers. Via Greg Sargent.

** Stephanie Mencimer of Mother Jones: "Ann Romney, [who has multiple sclerosis,] has done much to raise the profile of an incurable, degenerative illness that afflicts some 400,000 Americans.... But ... MS advocates say that policies [Mitt] Romney now supports would be detrimental for many MS sufferers, and they are actively opposing these proposals.... Romney has pledged to 'repeal and replace' the Affordable Care Act.... He also would turn Medicaid, the government health care plan for children and the poor, into a block grant, a plan that would ultimately cut millions from the program. And when he promises to replace Obamacare, Romney has offered only a few weak substitutes, such as capping damages in malpractice lawsuits. All of this would have tremendous implications for people with multiple sclerosis." CW: read the whole post. Thanks to Lisa for the link. ...

CW: Mencimer links to this video on MittRomney.com (one of my favorite sites) in which the Romney family talks about Ann's illness. The video, released in late May 2012, obviously should be one that, among other goals, puts candidate Mitt in a positive light. While their sons say Mitt has been very supportive of Ann, the only things Mitt says in the video -- titled "Soul Mate," are,

Probably the toughest time in my life was standing there with Ann as we hugged each other and the diagnosis came. As long as it's not something fatal, I'm just fine. I'm happy in life as long as I've got my soul mate with me.

     ... Ann learns she has a debilitating illness, yet somehow it's all about Mitt -- how tough her illness is on him, how he's just fine and he's happy in life. This is absolutely the closest Mitt can come to feelings of love and empathy for another human being. He doesn't get close, and evidently he and his campaign advisors see nothing wrong with his sheer selfishness. ...

... This is a tough anti-Romney ad, which I think reflects exactly the trait we see in the "Soul Mate" spot:

     ... CW: normally, I find this type of ad unfair. After all, every person in power -- even a well-meaning, caring person -- makes decisions that have negative impacts on other people's lives. But I think the ad reflects a true thing about Romney -- that he doesn't care how his decisions hurt other people; ergo, his positions on health care.

AND in Sporting News for the Super-Rich, CBS News reports, "Ann Romney said her horse Rafalca had another 'fabulous' ride at the Olympic team equestrian dressage competition and that she's thinking of breeding the German-born mare when she stops competing in a year or two. Rafalca, the 15-year-old bay that has inspired political jokes about Mitt Romney's wealth and Republican presidential ambitions, had a solid performance Tuesday, although rider Jan Ebeling said he wished the score of 69.302 percent could have been higher. The low score confirmed that Rafalca won't advance to the individual medal competition Thursday."

Congressional Races

Cameron Joseph of The Hill: "The big-spending GOP outside group Crossroads GPS has bought $7.2 million in airtime in five key Senate states, an ad-tracking source told The Hill. The ads will begin to air this Wednesday in Missouri, Montana, Nevada, North Dakota and Virginia -- all key swing states The Hill rates as 'toss-ups.' The GOP needs to gain a net of four seats for Senate control."

Alex Isenstadt of Politico: "As they kick off tough reelection battles, the GOP [Congressional freshmen] are taking pains to distance themselves from a Capitol that remains toxic, casting themselves as the same insurgent forces that swept to power in 2010. Far from embracing the Congress that they promised to change, the freshmen are taking an ice pick to it," effectively pretending their opponents -- not they -- are the incumbents. ...

... Dave Weigel finds some Democratic incumbents who are doing the same.

News Ledes

AP: "Congressman Todd Akin has won a hard-fought Republican primary for the right to challenge Democratic U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill. Akin on Tuesday topped businessman John Brunner and former state Treasurer Sarah Steelman in a primary in which all three leading candidates portrayed themselves as the top conservative choice. McCaskill was unopposed in the Democratic primary."

AP: "Former Michigan Congressman Pete Hoekstra has won the Republican nomination for U.S. Senate, overcoming a challenge from two Republicans who questioned his record as a conservative. The Holland former lawmaker defeated Clark Durant of Grosse Pointe and former Kent County Judge Randy Hekman of Grand Rapids Tuesday in the GOP primary. He'll advance to a November matchup with Democratic U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow."

AP: "Jared Lee Loughner agreed Tuesday to spend the rest of his life in prison, accepting that he went on a deadly shooting rampage at an Arizona political gathering and sparing the victims a lengthy, possibly traumatic death-penalty trial."

AP: "A major fire at one of the country's biggest oil refineries that sent scores of people to hospitals with breathing problems will push gas prices above $4 a gallon on the West Coast, analysts said Tuesday. The fire, which sent plumes of black smoke over the San Francisco Bay area, erupted Monday evening in the massive Chevron refinery about 10 miles northeast of San Francisco."

AP: "A Texas man, [Marvin Wilson,] convicted of killing a police informant two decades ago was executed Tuesday evening after the U.S. Supreme Court rejected arguments that he was too mentally impaired to qualify for the death penalty."

AP: "The Federal Aviation Administration will bar airports nationwide from using a traffic-reversing operation that led to a close call last week at an airport near the nation's capital."

New York Times: "Marvin Hamlisch, the singularly productive and sensationally decorated composer of musicals like 'A Chorus Line' and songs like 'The Way We Were,' has died, his family said Tuesday through a representative. He was 68." ...

     ... Update: the Times' obituary is here. The Times also features videos of performances of Hamlisch's songs here.

The Hill: "Missouri's hotly contested Republican Senate primary will be decided on Tuesday, with major implications for the fall campaign against embattled Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) -- and control of the Senate."

Detroit News: "Headlining the ballot [in Michigan] is a GOP primary for U.S. Senate among Pete Hoekstra, Clark Durant and Randy Hekman.

St. Louis Post-Dispatch: "Nearly 900 Roman Catholic nuns will gather in St. Louis this week to discuss their future relationship with the Vatican.... In the spring, the Vatican's doctrinal watchdog office issued a report that questioned the organization's fidelity to some church teachings, accused it of 'serious doctrinal problems' and announced that three U.S. bishops would temporarily take the group's reins in order to reform it. This week, the members of the Leadership Conference for Women Religious -- which represents 80 percent of the country's 57,000 Catholic nuns -- will discuss their options, which could range from accepting the reforms to severing their official connection to the Vatican."

More on the Mars landing at this NASA.gov page.

Charlotte Observer: "Andrew Young, the ex-aide to John Edwards, and his wife will not be prosecuted for criminal contempt for their actions in a civil case brought against them by Edwards' former mistress, the district attorney for Orange and Chatham counties announced Monday." Via Kevin Robillard of Politico.

President Obama signed a bill yesterday designed to improve health care for veterans. The bill also prohibits protesting within 300 feet of a military funeral. He answered a press question about the Oak Creek, Wisconsin murders:

Sunday
Aug052012

The Commentariat -- August 6, 2012

CW: my DSL (& my land line) is down, so I am relegated to McDonalds again, which means I'm working only Mickey D. hours. Update: At 1 pm ET, my DSL is still down, but I must leave this place! I'll be back this evening.

CW: With a caveat on his WikiLeaks slam -- and here too he may not be entirely wrong -- Bill Keller has an interesting column this week on government leaks to reporters. As usual, Keller is insufferably smug, but -- to my surprise -- I agree with most of his column. If better-informed writers disagree, I'll be sure to post their critiques.

New York Times Editors: "Senate Republicans regularly promote themselves as the true custodians of national security. This claim seemed particularly hollow last week when they helped block a new measure aimed at protecting America's vulnerable computer networks from attack by, among others, potentially hostile foreign governments.... The cost of inaction is already high.... The Obama administration, including senior military leaders, lobbied hard for the bill, which was three years in the making and the product of a bipartisan effort. In the end, their common sense pleadings could not compete with the Chamber of Commerce, which has funneled millions of dollars to Republican political campaigns."

Fiscal Cliffitis. Nelson Schwartz of the New York Times: "A rising number of manufacturers are canceling new investments and putting off new hires because they fear paralysis in Washington will force hundreds of billions in tax increases and budget cuts in January, undermining economic growth in the coming months."

Azam Ahmed & Ben Protess of the New York Times: "Major banks, which often band together when facing government scrutiny, are now turning on one another as an international investigation into the manipulation of interest rates gains momentum. With billions of dollars and their reputations on the line, financial institutions have been spreading the blame in recent meetings with authorities.... While acknowledging their own wrongdoing, institutions are pointing out actions at other banks that they believe are worse -- and in some cases, extend to top executives." CW: so much for honor among thieves.

Robert Barnes of the Washington Post: "In courthouses across the country, lawsuits are challenging state laws that dictate who may vote, when they may vote and whether their ballot will be counted once they have voted. There is a special urgency in the presidential election's swing states. Lawyers in Colorado are poised to challenge the secretary of state's proposed purge of noncitizens from voter rolls. A half-dozen suits are aimed at Florida's raft of voting changes. A Pennsylvania judge is deciding whether a voter ID law there violates the state constitution. In Ohio, the Obama campaign has filed suit against a law passed by the state's Republican leadership to shorten the early-voting period. And [a] separate issue ... was whether Ohio must count provisional ballots cast in the wrong precinct when the mistake was the fault of a poll worker rather than the voter." ...

... Prof. Richard Hasen in a New York Times "Campaign Stops" post: "I have not found a single election over the last few decades in which impersonation fraud had the slightest chance of changing an election outcome -- unlike absentee-ballot fraud, which changes election outcomes regularly. (Let's face it: impersonation fraud is an exceedingly dumb way to try to steal an election.) ... Pennsylvania is a symptom of a partisan system gone wild.... Unlike impersonation fraud, noncitizen voting cannot be dismissed as a Republican fantasy.... Partisan attempts at manipulation of election rules have become more entrenched and sophisticated."

Jason Felch & Kim Christensen of the Los Angeles Times: "For nearly a century, the Boy Scouts of America has relied on a confidential blacklist known as the 'perversion files' as a crucial line of defense against sexual predators.... A Los Angeles Times review of more than 1,200 files dating from 1970 to 1991 found more than 125 cases across the country in which men allegedly continued to molest Scouts after the organization was first presented with detailed allegations of abusive behavior. Predators slipped back into the program by falsifying personal information or skirting the registration process. Others were able to jump from troop to troop around the country...." CW: excuse me for not being surprised.

Reformed Reagan-Bush staff economist Bruce Bartlett of the New York Times: "Republicans are adamant that taxes on the ultra-wealthy must not rise to the level they were at during the Clinton administration, as President Obama favors, lest economic devastation result. But they have a problem -- the 1990s were the most prosperous era in recent history. This requires Republicans to try to rewrite the economic history of that decade.... But it is clear from the experience of the 1990s that they can play a very big role in reducing the budget deficit and are not necessarily a drag on growth. And the obvious experience of the 2000s is that tax cuts increase the deficit and don't necessarily do anything for growth. Those arguing otherwise need to make a much better case than they have so far."

Stephen Ohlemacher of the AP: "People retiring today are part of the first generation of workers who have paid more in Social Security taxes during their careers than they will receive in benefits after they retire. It's a historic shift that will only get worse for future retirees, according to an analysis by The Associated Press."

More Climate Change Fallout. Grant Schulte of the AP: "Thousands of fish are dying in the Midwest as the hot, dry summer dries up rivers and causes water temperatures to climb in some spots to nearly 100 degrees." CW: wonder if the fishers of fishes are attributing dead fish to God's will, too. ...

... A Cultural Climate Change Fallout. Juliet Eilperin of the Washington Post: "More quickly than any other place in the United States, the Alaskan Arctic is being transformed by global warming. The impacts of climate change are threatening a way of life. The dilemma for the federal government -- and state and local officials -- is whether to try to preserve, if it is even possible, the heritage of the Inuit villages, their ice cellars, sod ancestral homes and cemeteries ringed with spires of whalebones. Or spend the hundreds of millions of dollars it would cost to move even one village."

Donovan Slack of Politico: "Former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor suggests that declining public approval of the court dates back to the controversial Bush v. Gore decision, which decided the 2000 presidential race." CW: but don't think this was an intellectual breakthrough moment for O'Connor. She also "demurred on taking responsibility. 'I don't see how you can say anybody was the deciding vote,' she said. 'They all counted.' O'Connor said she has no regrets about her vote." Not. My. Fault. ...

... Digby adds context:

Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, attending a Washington, DC, party and watching the news networks predict Florida, and thusly the presidency, for Democrat Al Gore, says aloud, 'This is terrible.' Her husband explains that she is considering retiring from the Court, but will only do so if George W. Bush, a fellow Republican, is in office to appoint her successor. -- Jake Tapper (3/2001)

At a November 29 dinner attended by clerks from several justices, a clerk for Justice Sandra Day O'Connor tells the group that O'Connor is determined to overturn the Florida Supreme Court's decision to go ahead with manual recounts of election ballots (see 3:00 p.m., November 16, 2000). One clerk recalls the O'Connor clerk saying, 'she thought the Florida court was trying to steal the election and that they had to stop it.' O'Connor has the reputation of deciding an issue on her 'gut,' then finding legal justifications for supporting her decision. Unbeknownst to anyone outside the Court, O'Connor has already made up her mind. -- Vanity Fair (10/2004)

Joe Hagan profiles Maricopa County, Arizona''s brutal Sheriff Joe Arpaio in Rolling Stone. Notably, the voters keep re-electing him & Fox "News" keep inviting him back on the air.

Presidential Race

Tom Hamburger & Peter Wallsten of the Washington Post: "David Plouffe, a senior White House adviser who was President Obama's 2008 campaign manager, accepted a $100,000 speaking fee in 2010 from an affiliate of a company doing business with Iran's government. A subsidiary of MTN Group, a South Africa-based telecommunications company, paid Plouffe for two speeches he made in Nigeria in December 2010, about a month before he joined the White House staff.... At the time of Plouffe's speeches, MTN had been in a widely reported partnership for five years with a state-owned Iranian telecommunications firm. There were no legal or ethical restrictions on Plouffe being paid to speak to the MTN subsidiary.... In recent weeks, Republican presidential contender Mitt Romney has accused the administration of being soft on Iran." ...

     ... Glenn Greenwald: "The reason the Post sees this as some sort of a scandal and the reason it will resonate – namely: the money Plouffe received is tainted by virtue of a connection to the Evil Persian Regime — is frivolous and cynical, just part of the ongoing Washington fear-mongering orgy over Iran." But, speaking of "dirty money" (see links re: Sheldon Adelson below) read the whole post.

Julie Pace of the AP: "President Barack Obama, emboldened by the Supreme Court's affirmation of his health care overhaul, is now embracing the law while campaigning for re-election, just as Republican rival Mitt Romney steps back from it. Obama sees a second chance to sell voters on the issue despite deep skepticism about it from many people. Romney is avoiding answering hard questions about how he would tackle health care, and thus missing the chance to energize voters who oppose the law." CW: about time, Barry.

Reality Check. Glenn Greenwald: "Here we have the political campaign of the same President who, in another moment of trailblazing, has waged an unprecedented war on whistleblowers, and whose top aides secretly met at coffee houses with industry lobbyists to draft bills so as to evade disclosure and record preservation requirements, marching, apparently with a straight face, behind the banner of transparency to demand disclosure of his opponent's tax returns."

Rick Klein of ABC News: "The nation has met Barack Obama's Mitt Romney. If it's going to meet Romney's version of himself, it will happen this month, or not at all. It was supposed to start last month, with picked-up ad spending and a foreign trip built around a choreographed Olympic moment. But the foreign trip fell flat amid distractions at every stop, and Democrats continued to break through with their assault on Romney's transparency and business record."

The Italian Job. Jesse Drucker, et al., of Bloomberg News: "Bain Capital, under Romney as chief executive officer, made about $1 billion in a leveraged buyout 12 years ago that remains controversial in Italy to this day. Bain was part of a group that bought a telephone-directory company from the Italian government and then sold it about two years later, at the peak of the technology bubble, for about 25 times what it paid. Bain funneled profits through subsidiaries in Luxembourg, a common corporate strategy for avoiding income taxes in other European countries.... Romney himself probably earned more than $50 million, and possibly as much as $60 million" while avoiding taxes.

Inventing Controversy. Glenn Kessler of the Washington Post: "A pro-Israel group last week began running ads knocking President Obama for failing to visit Israel.... Then, on Sunday, the Romney campaign echoed this charge with its own ad also calling attention to Obama not visiting Israel as president. Obama visited Israel in 2008, as a presidential candidate, but thus far has not visited the Jewish state during his presidential term.... Only four of the last 11 presidents visited Israel during their presidency, and two -- Nixon and George W. Bush -- waited until their second term to make their first trip. In both cases, they visited in the last year of their presidencies.... Only Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton, then, visited Israel in their first term. And of the last four presidents, two never visited Israel...."

Aaron Blake of the Washington Post: "Mitt Romney raised $101.3 million in the month of July, his campaign said Monday, marking the second straight month in which the GOP presidential candidate has pulled in nine figures." ...

     ... Update. Michael Shear & Nicholas Confessore of the New York Times: "The president's campaign announced on Twitter on Monday morning that his July fund-raising topped out at about $75 million. 'Every bit helps,' the campaign tweeted, noting that 98 percent of the contributions were under $250. Mr. Obama's advisers have all but conceded the money race to Mr. Romney."

Maggie Haberman of Politico: "The Paul Ryan-for-VP chatter has heated up in the past two days, thanks in part to him updating his Federal Election Commission filings for his PAC, suddenly canceling a planned appearance at an anti-Obamacare rally and winning praise from Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal as the best pick." ...

... Ed Rendell, former Pennsylvania governor & DNC chair, has his own GOP veep pick:

Screw the Dual Mandate. Kevin Bohn of CNN: "... Mitt Romney said Saturday that he does not support the Federal Reserve enacting a new stimulus program to boost the economy, telling CNN Chief Political Analyst Gloria Borger that a previous effort by the nation's central bank did not have a major impact." With video. ...

... A More Honest Assessment. Grace Wyler of Business Insider: "Romney's comments echo those of many of his fellow Republicans, who have raised concerns that any additional stimulus between now and the election would boost the markets, and improve President Barack Obama's chances for re-election.... Romney did tell CNN that he thinks "now is the time for something dramatic," but did not specify what that action should be." CW: he wouldn't, would he?

Dirty Harry. Priebus Keeps It Classy. George Stephanopoulos of ABC News: "Republican National Committee chair Reince Priebus called Sen. Harry Reid a 'dirty liar'." this morning on 'This Week' for accusing presumptive GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney of not paying taxes. ...

... Charles Mahtesian of Politico: Priebus's comment & a similar one by Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) are indications Reid's own finances will be a GOP target. ...

... Steve Kornacki: "Whatever you think of Reid’s tactics, this really is the definition of taking one for the team."

Dirty Money. Andre Tartar of New York magazine: "Billionaire Romney-backer Sheldon Adelson's Las Vegas casino company, Las Vegas Sands Corp., is at the center of a year-long money laundering investigation, The Wall Street Journal reports." ...

Thomas Edsall in the New York Times: "... what was this ever-so-guarded, moralistic ('I want to clean up the moral pollution on TV and the Internet') politician doing at a $50,000-a-couple fundraiser in Jerusalem with Sheldon G. Adelson -- proprietor of one of the largest, if not the largest, gambling and casino operations in the world -- seated in the honored position at his side? Adelson and his company are under investigation by the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Department of Justice on allegations of foreign bribery. In addition, the United States Attorney's office in Los Angeles is investigating whether Adelson's Las Vegas Sands Corp. failed to alert authorities to millions of dollars transferred to casinos in violation of money-laundering laws.... At a minimum, Romney could tell us how he reconciles the values he says he stands for with the basis on which Adelson's fortune is built." Edsall reviews some of Adelson's legal difficulties.

Congressional Races

Jonathan Weisman of the New York Times: "As the three Republican candidates [for Missouri's U.S. Senate nomination] battled it out, [Sen. Claire] McCaskill (ConservaD) has had to buckle down as well. Karl Rove's Crossroads GPS, David and Charles Koch's Americans For Prosperity, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the 60 Plus Association have dumped as much as $15 million into the state since July 2011 to [oppose McCaskill].... The sustained campaign could become a textbook for future efforts in a new era of anything-goes campaign financing, both Ms. McCaskill and her opponents say. Most of the spending is coming from tax-exempt 501(c)(4) organizations like Crossroads GPS, which may accept large corporate and individual donations without disclosing donors' identities."

Elizabeth Warren, in a Politico opinion piece: "Washington politicians line up 10-deep to claim they support small businesses, but they avoid talking about a harsh reality: The system is rigged against small business. These owners can't afford armies of lobbyists in D.C., but the big corporations can. It's those armies of lobbyists that create the loopholes and special breaks that let big corporations off the hook for paying taxes. While small businesses are left to pay the bills.... If a business makes it big, the reward shouldn't be the ability to rig the system to stop the next guy."

News Ledes

New York Times: "Thwarting controls against money laundering, [British bank] Standard Chartered Bank enabled Iranian banks and corporations to hide roughly 60,000 transactions worth at least $250 billion within the bank, New York state's banking regulator charged Monday."

ABC News: "The gunman who opened fire in a Sikh temple in Oak Creek, Wis., and killed six people has been identified as Army veteran Wade Michael Page. Page, 40, opened fire outside the temple before entering around 10:30 a.m. Sunday morning and killed six people. He served in the Army from April 1992 through October 1998. Though police have not given any details on the motive of the shooter, but Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms Special Agent Thomas Ahern said Page had tattoos that suggested he had ties to white supremacists."

New York Times: "In a flawless, triumphant technological tour de force, a plutonium-powered rover the size of a small car was lowered at the end of 25-foot-long cables from a hovering rocket stage onto Mars early on Monday morning." NASA's Website is here, with links to numerous stories & pix on Curiosity.

New York Times: "President Bashar al-Assad fired his prime minister on Monday, Syria's official media reported, as activists countered that he defected to neighboring Jordan in what seemed a further indication of disarray among loyalists following a series of high-level defections and a rebel bomb attack last month that killed four of the Syrian leader's closest security aides." ...

     ... Al Jazeera Update: "Riad Farid Hijab, the Syrian prime minister, has joined the opposition, he has announced, after state television reported that he was sacked this morning. The former prime minister arrived in Jordan after being smuggled across the border, Jordanian authorities confirmed to Al Jazeera on Monday."